Harper Needs Minimum Wage
Currently in Canada, it is the responsibility of the provinces to legislate their own minimum wages. The lowest minimum wage is Alberta at 9.95; the highest is Nunavut at 11.00. In the United States, there is a federally enforced minimum wage that sets the minimum for all 50 states at 7.25. As of yet, Canada has no federally enforced minimum wage guidelines, which leaves the door wide open for the country's majority Conservative government to make an impact on centrists and potential Liberal voters by introducing small constitutional reforms.
Minimum wage is a contentious issue for free market conservatives, but it is one that will move the Conservative Party in a direction that could soften their image among independents and swing voters. The impact of a national minimum wage in Canada would be small and the effect on the economy would be minimal. With Alberta having the only minimum wage below 10.00, implementing a federally enforced minimum wage of 10.00 would be harmless to Canada's overall economic forecast. Such a move would require Alberta to increase its minimum wage by an insignificant 0.05.
The benefits of a minimum wage for Conservatives would be far greater than its actual impact on Canada's economy.
Canada's median minimum wage is currently 0.07 above that of the United States, even without a federally enforced minimum wage. Creating a 10.00 minimum across the board would have no effect on Canada's current median.
The only downside to having a federally mandated minimum wage is the ability of future governing majorities to increase it. Like taxes, a minimum wage will never go down. It will only increase over time. However, there is no stopping a future Liberal or NDP majority from taking the first step of implementing a national minimum wage. The possibility of a national minimum wage in Canada has been talked about before and will likely become an inevitability if Justin Trudeau's Liberals ever win a majority.
It would be politically beneficial for Stephen Harper's majority government to take the first step toward a national minimum wage. It would mean robbing future Liberals of the opportunity. It could also mean the possibility of a much needed boost in popularity ahead of 2015.
The Harper government has already taken baby steps toward the centre with recent consumer protections and a heavier hand in the private matters of Canada's telecom industry. Implementing a national minimum wage would be a big move – one that would resonate loudly and grab headlines for months. It would take thunder from Trudeau and his Liberals and deprive them of one possible future promise.
Enforcing a national minimum wage won't harm the Conservative Party. Any damage would come straight from the party's base and be minimal and short-lived. Once the party wins another majority in 2015, it won't have to worry about moving closer to the centre for another four years. It can spend 2016, 17 and 18 being fully conservative.
Fellow Poletical contributors have shared their opinions about the Conservative Party needing to make big moves to win 2015. A national minimum wage is as big as they come and its political benefits outweigh its paltry economic effects. Most Canadians don't know what the median minimum wage is across Canada. Some Canadians are probably unaware that Canada has no national minimum wage. Headlines of a national minimum wage being introduced by the Conservative government would warm the hearts of Canadian voters.
If the official opposition parties attack the Conservative Party's national minimum wage, it would mean attacking their own ideological framework. Minimum wage belongs to liberals and socialists. Attacking it would offer Conservatives endless sources of ammunition in the House Of Commons. If the opposition attacks the Conservative Party's minimum wage by calling it a political ploy, the tables could still be turned to expose their attacks as attacks on minimum wage – which is exactly what they would still be. If the Liberals and socialists stay silent, the Conservatives take the spotlight uncontested and win full praise.
If Liberals refuse to offer bipartisan praise across the aisle, they lose. If they do offer bipartisan praise to the Conservative Party, they lose. If Liberals go on the attack, they lose. If the Liberals don't say anything, they lose.
The party with the most to lose from a Conservative minimum wage is the Liberal Party. With all the Liberal Party's nonsense about marijuana, prostitution and gun control, a move like this would blow away all of that smoke and make a substantial impact.
If the Conservative Party wants to move upward from its dismal position in recent polling data, it will need big moves. A national minimum wage will require timing. Introducing it too soon would allow voters to forget. Introducing it too late might not give them enough time to digest. The right time would allow it to stay fresh in the minds of voters on election day, without letting the idea stagnate. The right time would allow opposition parties to make a move and respond.
The right time will be up to Stephen Harper.